Crypto News Headlines (08-April-2022)

European Union member states today agreed to ban the provision of high-value crypto-asset services to Russia as part of a fifth package of sanctions imposed in response to the Ukraine war.

The measure will “contribute to closing potential loopholes” in existing restrictions, the European Commission said, and were announced alongside bans on four Russian banks, coal imports and offering advice on wealth-concealing trusts to oligarchs.

According to a statement made by the Council of the EU, which represents national governments within the bloc, the measures extend a prohibition on deposits to crypto wallets.

European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde recently warned crypto was being used to evade sanctions, despite little evidence.

In an FAQ posted April 4, the commission said crypto was already included in existing asset freezes, and on March 9 extended the definition of “transferable securities” to include virtual assets.

Payments-focused financial technology firm Bolt Financial is making a big move into the crypto space with the acquisition of digital assets startup Wyre.

The acquisition is worth a whopping $1.5 billion, making it one of the largest in the sector that did not involve a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC).

Crypto mergers and acquisitions have surged over the past year, and there has been $1.25 billion worth of deals done in the first quarter of 2022. This latest one will put activity on track to eclipse the $4.9 billion in crypto-related M&A in 2021, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Bolt, founded in 2014, operates in the online-payments space with a “one-click checkout” service for merchants called “CheckoutOS.” The report added that the firm has had $1.3 billion in venture capital investments and was valued at around $11 billion.

Bank of Russia considers it impossible to use cryptocurrencies to circumvent financial restrictions imposed over the military conflict in Ukraine. That’s according to a statement by the central bank’s First Deputy Governor Ksenia Yudaeva, issued in a reply to a proposal by a member of the State Duma, the lower house of Russian parliament.

Anton Gorelkin, a lawmaker from the ruling United Russia party, had suggested that Russian companies and individual entrepreneurs should be allowed to make payments in digital currencies, including for settlements with foreign partners. He thinks the establishment of a Russian national crypto infrastructure in response to the sanctions introduced by the West is inevitable.

Central bank officials are convinced, however, that transfers of large amounts of money in cryptocurrency by Russian businesses would not be feasible. Quoted by the RIA Novosti news agency, Yudaeva pointed out that regulatory authorities in the EU, U.S., U.K., Japan, and Singapore have started to implement preventive measures.

Metaverse hype has exploded in recent months since Facebook’s Meta rebranding, but the vision of an immersive, experiential future internet could be years away from taking shape at scale. It will require significant infrastructure, and gaming tech startup Improbable hopes to lead the charge with a new initiative and considerable funding.

Today, the London-based Improbable revealed M² (MSquared), a new entity that will focus on developing the Web3 tech needed to not only bring large-scale metaverse worlds to life, but also allow interoperability so users can carry over NFT assets and items between worlds. NFTs are unique crypto tokens that are used to demonstrate ownership over digital items. M² is independent from the main Improbable company, and it has raised separate funds as well. The new entity has raised $150 million at a $1 billion valuation, making it the latest in a long line of crypto unicorns, or companies in the space valued at $1 billion or more.

Strike announced an integration with Shopify in a bid to help merchants receive bitcoin payments from customers in the form of U.S. dollars.

Speaking before a packed house at the Miami Beach Conference Center mainstage, Mallers, an ardent bitcoiner and Lightning Network advocate, said his “King’s gambit” would bring bitcoin back to its payments roots.

“If we can help make the Bitcoin network more accessible and usable we believe we can change the world,” he said. Leveraging Bitcoin for a cheap “payment network” is critical to that, he said, contrasting it with the “caviar-eating” history of boomer bank-issued credit cards that he said hasn’t innovated (beyond onboarding middlemen and their fees) in years.

“There’s not been since 1949 a superior payments network that allows us to innovate” for consumers, he claimed. “Let’s build the superior payments network from scratch.”

His lead-up laced in sarcasm, Mallers’ payoff was simple: Bitcoin’s Lightning Network “carries all the properties” for homegrown success.

Blockchain technologies played an unusually prominent role in major elections such as in South Korea, but there’s been barely a whisper about it in France, which will soon elect, or possibly reelect, its president for the next five years.

After years of broken promises and hamfisted regulation, opinions are divided on whether that relative silence is really a bad thing.

French voters will have 12 presidential candidates to pick from when they vote on Sunday. Incumbent centrist Emmanuel Macron is likely to be a top finisher and will then face a run-off two weeks later against whoever comes in second – which, based on current polling, seems likely to be right-wing nationalist Marine Le Pen.

In a campaign that has seen a focus on more traditional issues including immigration, rising prices and broader internet access, crypto has barely gotten a look-in.

That may have changed, albeit slightly, after a recent study suggesting there could be hundreds of thousands of votes available. The survey, carried out by pro-crypto activist group ADAN with KPMG and pollsters IPSOS, found that 8% of French adults have invested in cryptocurrencies or non-fungible tokens (NFT), and 4% said the subject would determine their vote.

Kevin O’Leary spoke at the Bitcoin 2022 Conference, voicing support for bitcoin and renewable proof-of-work mining. He believed regulations introduced by Bipartisan lawmakers could remove the uncertainty investors have felt towards the sector.

Regulations on Cryptocurrency Incentivize Capital Inflow

Kevin O’Leary, the famed investor and media personality nicknamed “Mr.Wonderful,” touted his support of renewable crypto mining, as well as proactive regulatory efforts, likely introduced by the US government in the near future.

Mr. Wonderful is an open crypto bull who previously revealed that cryptos, including tokens and blockchain companies, accounted for 20% of his investment portfolios.

O’Leary said in the conference that the US Congress is working on regulations targeted at the crypto industry, which he considered a positive sign because as the regulatory concern is clarified, capital would soon aggressively flow into the sector.

I have been spending a lot of time in Washington in the last three months. The good news is on a bipartisan basis there are many senators and rep that are thinking about this in a proactive way.

Survey: Metaverse Will Be the Most Popular Place for Crypto

Nasdaq-listed Agora (NASDAQ: API), a video, voice, and live interactive streaming platform, conducted a survey on the metaverse and published the results Tuesday.

The company asked 300 U.S.-based developers a set of questions “to learn more about what they thought about the metaverse and what we will see in the coming years,” Agora detailed. Developers were surveyed because for them, “the growth of the metaverse allows the development of new communities and allows them to better connect with users,” the company explained.

According to the results:

57% of respondents think that the metaverse will become the most popular place to buy, store and trade cryptocurrency, while 18% disagree and 25% feel neutral.

Mexican billionaire Ricardo Salinas said today that 60% of his liquid investment portfolio is in Bitcoin. 

Salinas is Mexico’s third-richest man, and the world’s 154th richest, with a net worth of $12.8 billion, according to Bloomberg. At the Miami Bitcoin 2022 conference today, Salinas said he doesn’t own any bonds—instead preferring to invest mostly in Bitcoin. This is up from 2020, when the business magnate admitted 10% of his portfolio was in Bitcoin—saying at the time that the asset “protects the citizen from government expropriation.”

“I definitely don’t have any bonds,” he said today. “I have a liquid portfolio—I have 60% in Bitcoin and Bitcoin equities, and then 40% in hard asset stocks like oil and gas and gold miners, and that’s where I am.”

Salinas, who is chairman of Grupo Elektra, a home appliance and electronics retailer, has long been a Bitcoin fan. In October 2020, he posted on Twitter a list of book recommendations, including ‘The Bitcoin Standard’ by economist Saifedean Ammous.

MIAMI-MicroStrategy (MSTR) CEO Michael Saylor and ARK’s Cathie Wood gave a number of reasons for why they think bitcoin will continue to gain adoption and increase in price in a chat at the Bitcoin 2022 conference on Thursday.

Speaking to a packed house of the bitcoin faithful who gave the pair a standing ovation at their introduction, Saylor and Wood laid out several political and technological reasons for their optimism about the world’s biggest cryptocurrency.

On the political front, Saylor, whose company owns roughly $6 billion worth of bitcoin, said President Biden’s recent executive order directing various federal agencies to coordinate their approach to regulating the sector amounted to the “President of the United States giving a greenlight to bitcoin.”

“If I scan the last 100 years of history [and ask] when was the last time the President of the United States directed the government to embrace a new asset class, the answer is never,” Saylor said. He described the order as Biden telling different U.S. agencies to “get educated on bitcoin and figure out how to get it incorporated into the government.”

Wood agreed that there has been growing political support for bitcoin in the U.S.